It’s normal for your sex drive to change over your lifetime, so if you’re worried about a sudden decrease in desire, know that low sex drive or low libido can happen to anyone and at any stage of life.
If you are experiencing a low sex drive, there are supplements, foods and lifestyle changes that can contribute to a higher libido and increased sexual satisfaction.
What exactly is a sex drive, and what is normal?
The sex drive or libido describes how much a person desires sexual connection. Though there is no standardized medical definition of what counts as a high or low sex drive, someone with a high sex drive is likely to have a more frequent desire for sex and engage in sexual behavior more often.
Conversely, someone with a low sex drive may not think about sex very often and is less likely to engage in sexual activity.
What is considered a normal level of sexual interest varies for everyone. So evaluating if there’s a problem depends on what you consider normal for yourself and if your sexual function meets your expectations.
It’s common for sexual interest to change over time, especially throughout a relationship. For example, the initial “honeymoon phase” often involves high levels of desire from both partners. But, during a long-term relationship, it’s common for each partner to experience periods of increased or reduced sex drive.
Natural ways to increase your libido
There are several strategies that may improve low libido. However, lifestyle changes alone can make a big difference and should be considered first.
Additional solutions, like food or supplements, lack concrete evidence of success — still, certain foods, like oysters, pistachios or chocolate, are low risk to try. If you do plan to take a herbal product or supplement, it is important to research the brand, establish a safe starting dose and ensure it won’t interfere with your medications or health conditions.
1. Rule out a physical cause
If you are experiencing a loss of sex drive or pain during sexual intercourse, it’s a good idea to discuss this with your healthcare provider. They can evaluate your sexual health, help determine if there’s an underlying physical issue and discuss treatment options.
For men and people assigned male at birth, a loss of sex drive or erectile dysfunction may be linked to low testosterone.1(For women, it can be linked to shifts in hormone levels experienced during menopause or following the birth of a baby.2) Certain medical conditions and treatments, like antidepressants and heart disease medications, are also associated with low sex drive or sexual dysfunction.3,4
2. Decrease your stress levels
Stress can be an overwhelming distraction that decreases your energy level and makes it hard to enjoy sex.5 Among other health benefits, like lowering your blood pressure,6 reducing stress can help address a loss of libido.7,8,9
Make lifestyle changes to reduce stress in your everyday life or try activities known to relieve stress like massages, regular exercise or breathing exercises.
3. Communicate with your partner(s)
Good communication is essential if you’re dealing with a low sex drive in your relationship.10 Sharing experiences and expressing empathy for your partner’s perspective can provide more insights into each other’s needs and help bridge the gap between mismatched sex drives. If you struggle to open up about your intimate relationship, consider couples therapy or sex therapy. Sex therapists can help individuals or couples work through sexual difficulties.11
4. Prioritize date night
If you notice a decrease in sex drive and are in a relationship, it may help to plan a date together. In long-term relationships, it’s easy to forget the importance of making time to keep the romance alive. But, spending quality time together on date nights can increase intimacy and help reignite your initial attraction.12,13,14
5. Limit alcohol and cannabis
Some people like to have a glass of wine or use cannabis to relax before having sex, but it’s important to use substances in moderation. Too much alcohol or cannabis can negatively impact erectile function and make you too tired to engage in sexual activities.16,17
6. Try maca root supplements
Maca root is a plant native to Peru. It is related to ginseng and has long been believed to increase sexual desire. You can find maca root supplements in most health food stores.
7. Consider ginkgo biloba
A tree native to China, ginkgo biloba has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. Studies indicate that ginkgo biloba may increase sexual desire, particularly when sexual dysfunction is caused by antidepressants.20 This is thought to be due to ginkgo biloba’s influence on the body’s blood flow and smooth muscle tissue.21
8. Add fenugreek
Fenugreek — a spice often used in South Asian recipes like curry — is rumored to help with sex drive. A randomized clinical trial in 2011 with healthy males aged 25 to 52 concluded that fenugreek might impact male libido and help maintain a normal testosterone level.22 Another 2016 study found that fenugreek seed extract helped improve sexual function in healthy middle-aged and older men.23
9. Try pistachios
One study found that eating 100g of pistachios each day for three weeks caused men to experience firmer erections and increased blood flow to the penis.24 While the study did not include a control group and requires further research, the results on sexual function are interesting.
10. Eat more chocolate
Chocolate has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, but is there any truth to the tales? A 2009 clinical study that tracked the stress hormone secreted by 30 people over a two-week period of consuming chocolate suggests that it may lower your anxiety and stress levels.25 So, while there’s no solid evidence of chocolate’s effects on one’s sex drive, it may help you feel happier and less stressed, which can contribute to more frequent and enjoyable sex. Plus, dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are linked to other health benefits, so why not try it?26,27
11. Give oysters a chance
A 2013 study from Malaysia found that consuming oysters increased sexual behavior in mice when compared to controls.28 The researchers proposed that the high levels of zinc in oysters could contribute to their potential sexual benefits. Zinc is an essential mineral required for sex hormones, like testosterone, to function properly.29,30 Like other foods, there’s no proven link to libido, but as long as you’re not on an oyster-restricted diet, it probably won’t hurt.
Low sex drive is a common problem that affects people of all ages and genders, regardless of relationship status. It’s important to speak to a healthcare professional to rule out potential health problems before trying natural treatments. Lifestyle factors like reducing stress, limiting alcohol and cannabis and spending time with your partner may improve a low sex drive.